How to apologise for doing something oppressive:

Another fantastic week at WoCo with Wom*n’s Self-Defence, Radical Sex and Consent, Film Screenings and our new Greivance Policies. Over the past few weeks we have had a chance to present workshops on apologising and calling out. So we thought we would put a little how-to guide in this very space!

How to apologise for doing something oppressive:

We have all been in the situation where someone has told you that you have done something wrong – maybe it was something that wasn’t just ‘wrong’ in the situation you were in, but something wrong in the sense that you were partaking in the systematic wrongs that people have to deal with everyday. Maybe you got called out for doing something oppressive.

Perhaps you didn’t mean it like that, or you hadn’t really thought about it in that way before…Maybe you are actually a strong advocate against racism/ trans*phobia/ homophobia/ sexism or the oppressive behaviour you are getting called out for – in which case you might feel quite ashamed, and unsure about the right way to respond.

So what should you do? Well obviously the best thing to do is apologise – but in a way that shows you realise that you have participated in oppression, and that you are going to think about how not to do that in the future. Also remember that it’s an opportunity to learn something new. Someone calling you out may serve as a reminder of something have forgotten or aren’t as sensitive to because you haven’t had certain experiences. Here’s a few guidelines to apologising constructively:

1.   Say “sorry”.
2.   Do not speak of your intention. No one who is committed to social change really seeks to hurt others, but your behaviour can be mapped on to systematic oppression as a result of living in this unequal world. Avoid classifying your apology with ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ as they put the blame on the person who has called you out i.e. “I’m sorry IF you’re offended, BUT I didn’t mean it like that.”
3.   Articulate and acknowledge what you did wrong: “I am sorry for perpetuating racist stereotypes which are untrue and harmful.”
4.   Say ‘Thank You’ and understand that calling out takes a lot of courage and can be one of the hardest things to do. Don’t ask the person who called you out for more information.
5.   Tell that person you are committed to changing your behaviour. “Thank you for pointing that out, I will do more reading about this and be more mindful of what I say in the future.”
If you would like to find out more about calling out and apologising there are some great youtube videos by Francesca Leigh (cescaleigh) and the internet has many many resources for self-education to learn more about negotiating privilege and oppression. Wom*n’s Collective will also be running workshops throughout the semester so contact us if you would like to get involved.

2014 Women’s Officers

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